SuChin Pak does it all. She’s a correspondent for MTV News, moderates conferences with her Web series, “The Exchange,” hosts environmental fundraisers and writes for “The Engine Room,” a blog on MTVu.com. Pak will take the spotlight at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29 in Emerson Suites, to discuss what it means to be a minority in the public eye. Senior Writer Hannah Moore talked to Pak about her career path.
Hannah Moore: What do you want students to remember from your speech? What do you want them to take away from your visit?
SuChin Pak: I’m rarely disappointed by college students, who are generally the smartest people that I get to talk to on a regular basis. I think it’s an interesting question what it means to be American, whether that’s what you look like, or where you’re from or if you live here. We’re in a time where we have to redefine what it means to be American. Between the politics, the economy, the poor, globalization and technology and all that’s happening to this generation.
HM: Do you plan on sending a certain message?
SP: I think that the message is very personal because I’m just there to share my experience and story. It’s an issue that I’ve dealt with my whole life and I think that I bring an interesting perspective because I have a public identity and a personal identity but all of that is tied to my experience being an immigrant in this country.
HM: After being so successful, is it really important to you to maintain this connection with students and campus networks?
SP: In my career, I can’t be successful without having that live interaction with college students. I think a lot of people make that mistake. When they have a career speaking to a young demographic as they get older they [become] farther and farther removed. For me, this is the only way I can really keep relevant, without doing these I feel like I wouldn’t know what was really happening.
HM: You were a political science major at Berkeley and never planned to be in television. I feel, at least at Ithaca, a lot of students feel like their major defines their career. Do you have any advice for students who are thinking they are limited by their major?
SP: Gosh, I hope I’m not going to make professors or parents angry, but I think your undergraduate degree, unless it’s something to do with an applied science or a technical skill, has nothing to do with what you really end up doing in life. I think the best way to figure out what you should study is to find out what you’re really, really interested [in] and passionate about. I think…what the education does is that it stimulates a lifelong curiosity for learning.
HM: You joined MTV as a correspondent in 2001. How did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
SP: I think what was really interesting to me was being able to work at a place where I could both do all the things I thought were really fun — entertainment, movies, music, celebrities, style and fashion — and then on the other hand be able to also report about swing voting, visit Thailand after the tsunami and talk to young veterans. I couldn’t imagine doing just straight news all of the time because to me it just wouldn’t be stimulating enough to only report on tragedy, despair, politics and crisis. But on the other hand, I don’t think I could do a job where my only job was to interview celebrities.
HM: You were also part of the Choose or Lose campaign in past years. Is there anything else you’ve been involved in along those lines?
SP: I do these great Web programs for the National Constitution Center and I just actually finished my fourth installment in Philadelphia. It’s basically a live chat online video conferencing schools from all over the country and we all sort of talk about an issue. It’s a really interesting series that I host for the National Constitution Center – it’s called the Student Exchange.
HM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
SP: I think it’s do what you love and the money will follow. It’s really hard to try to figure out the perfect combination of trying to figure out a job that you’re really passionate about and then also trying to figure out how to get paid doing it. I think having faith in that is something I have to remind myself [of] everyday. You can’t possibly imagine that you have a dream job and make a living doing it. That’s like winning the lottery.
Check out “The Exchange” and “The Engine Room” at: http://studentexchange.ning.com/ and http://blog.mtvengineroom.com